Daniel Sunjata

Daniel Sunjata

Born in Evanston, IL to a biracial family, Sunjata was adopted by a white couple - who gave him the middle name Sunjata, after the African king who created the empire of Mali - and raised on the south side of Chicago. He took to sports while in high school, playing on two state championship teams before graduation. His undergraduate studies took him to Florida A&M, and after a brief flirtation with business administration, he focused on acting and earned his Master's degree in Fine Arts from the Tisch School of the Arts in New York.Sunjata began making the rounds on stage in the late 1990s - most notably in a 1998 production of Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" directed by Nicholas Hynter and starring Helen Hunt, Kyra Sedgwick, and Paul Rudd, which was performed at Lincoln Center and broadcast on PBS that same year. He followed this with a supporting role in the Showtime miniseries adaptation of Anne Rice's Southern racial drama, "Feast of All Saints" (2001), and a small but memorable role as a Louisiana sailor who gains - and then loses - Sarah Jessica Parker's affections during Fleet Week in the fifth season opener of "Sex and the City" (HBO, 1998-2004). Sunjata also enjoyed small recurring roles on "All My Children" (ABC, 1970-) in 2001, and "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit" (1998-) from 2000 through 2004. In 2003, he earned a Tony nomination as well a World Theatre Award and Drama Desk nomination as a major league baseball player who incurs the confusion and rancor of his teammates by declaring himself openly gay in the Broadway play "Take Me Out." Sunjata's commanding performance attracted the attention of film and television - as well as People magazine, who named him one of its "50 Most Beautiful People of the year." By the following year, Sunjata was in high demand; not only was he co-starring on "Rescue Me" as the female-crazy (and trouble-plagued) Franco Rivera, but he also landed the attention-garnering role of poet Langston Hughes in "Brother to Brother" and a small part in Woody Allen's "Melinda and Melinda." Sunjata was also doubling his TV duties as a competitive music executive who clashes with Tom Cavanaugh (with whom he had appeared in an episode of "Ed" (NBC, 2000-04) on the short-lived "Love Monkey" (CBS, 2006). Sunjata returned to the big screen in 2006 for the film version of "The Devil Wears Prada" as up-and-coming fashion designer James Holt, a minor character that did not appear in the original novel. The following year, he displayed both his physical prowess and acting skills as baseball superstar Reggie Jackson, whose supreme self-confidence places him at odds with his teammates on the 1977 Yankees and between hotheaded manager Billy Martin (John Turturro) and forceful team owner George Steinbrenner (Oliver Platt). In his public life, Sunjata has openly embraced the 9/11 Truth Movement, which questioned the events leading up to and during the terrorist attacks in New York on September 11, 2001. He was witnessed at several publicity events wearing t-shirts bearing 9/11 related slogans.